Friday, April 29, 2005

What Do I Think About Religion? What That Guy Said.

I've been planning to write a careful account of my views on religion and its role in American life. I think this is a crucial issue because now, more than at any time in recent history, our society faces an increasing threat from the forces of irrationality. As scientists, and therefore daily practitioners, we are in a unique position to stand up and defend reason and logic. We can either speak out about the current social and political climate, or we can hide our heads in the sand and hope that it goes away. However, if we do the latter, we should not pretend that we didn't have a choice when sky actually falls.

I'll probably still write my piece, but it turns out that Richard Dawkins has hired an expensive psychic to fish around in my head and then has regurgitated my thoughts, in a more eloquent style, as his answers for an interview with salon.com. So you can pretty much just read that.

As an example of Dawkins at his clearest (and, surprisingly, his most optimistic and conciliatory), he says
"You won't find any opposition to the idea of evolution among sophisticated, educated theologians. It comes from an exceedingly retarded, primitive version of religion, which unfortunately is at present undergoing an epidemic in the United States. Not in Europe, not in Britain, but in the United States.

My American friends tell me that you are slipping towards a theocratic Dark Age. Which is very disagreeable for the very large number of educated, intelligent and right-thinking people in America. Unfortunately, at present, it's slightly outnumbered by the ignorant, uneducated people who voted Bush in.

But the broad direction of history is toward enlightenment, and so I think that what America is going through at the moment will prove to be a temporary reverse. I think there is great hope for the future. My advice would be, Don't despair, these things pass."
I know that a lot of people with views on religion that are similar to mine do not like Dawkins. I've never understood this attitude. Dawkins is a hero of mine because he just comes out and makes the arguments in a clear, concise and unvarnished manner, whereas some people may prefer it if one sugarcoats the message. While I understand the sentiment, I feel that this approach can often obscure the point. This feeling is reinforced by the refreshing sensation I get whenever I read Dawkins. I get a similar feeling from reading Pharyngula.
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